Fridays are happy days. Waking up on Friday means that the school week or the work week is almost at an end and the weekend looms ahead like a billowy cumulus cloud, eager for some snuggles. Most people normally look forward to the weekend. For me, I spend my Fridays looking into the past. My gaze lands on great sci-fi games from back in the day. There are quite a bit of overlooked gems.
For the first look back, I chose Warzone 2100. It is a PS1/PC game created by Pumpkin Studios and released in 1999. The game is a post-apocalyptic, real-time strategy (RTS) game where you take control of a faction of survivors after a nuclear war. The faction is called the Project and they seek to rebuild civilization using pre-war technology. In the game you fight off the opposing factions of The Collective and New Paradigm.
Warzone 2100 is pretty light in terms of sci-fi storytelling. There is a post nuclear war setting, a self-aware robot intelligence that functions as the main antagonist, and other futuristic technology that you uncover and research for your units to use. There is really nothing groundbreaking as far as storytelling goes. That’s not what sets this game apart from other games.
What gives Warzone 2100 that uniqueness is the original design that is integral to this game. These design choices still make this game stand out fifteen years later. For one, it was the first fully three-dimensional RTS that I played. As the player, I was given full control over the camera, which was immensely helpful in hectic firefights. I especially enjoyed giving a unit a command, locking the camera on that unit, and watching it carry out the command from that perspective.
Secondly, I enjoyed the tech tree and progression. During missions, units would stumble upon prewar artifacts which could be researched, adding to my tech tree. This tech could then be applied to the unit’s themselves in the design mode. As you played, you’d unlock new chassis, new locomotions, and new mounted objects. Not only that, you could combine them in any way you see fit, as long as your unit had a chassis, a locomotion part, and a mounted part. Researching machine guns, wheels, and light chassis would give you the ability to make a skirmish scout. This scout could pop into a firefight, harass an enemy and quickly exit before it was destroyed. This type of scout vehicle was especially useful for finding new artifacts. After you had found enough artifacts and researched the appropriate technology, you could combine a heavy chassis, a turret, and treads to make a tank capable of handling most other vehicles in the game. All it takes is a bit of common sense. The tech tree goes on even further for more fantastic vehicle types, including VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing). A third feature was the time limits placed on almost every level. These limits prevented me from simply turtling and stockpiling resources to build a massive, unstoppable army. I was forced to be a better tactician. This made completing the game very satisfying.
While Warzone 2100 was well received by critics, the game did not sell well enough to keep the studio solvent. Pumpkin Studios was closed by Eidos Interactive in 2000. On the bright side, fans of the game have kept up development and support for the game, founding the Warzone 2100 project. These fans petitioned Eidos Interactive to release the source code for the game. Eidos complied, and this made the game open source and free for any user. The latest fan made build was version 3.1.1, which was released in January of 2014.
I had a tremendous amount of fun with this game when I played it 15 years ago. I don’t know exactly why it stuck with me over the years, but I’ve held onto my PlayStation version of the game since. I downloaded the fan version of the game recently to see if it lives up to the nostalgia I have for the original. I’m not usually one to gush over remakes of games, but it was obvious that these fans were passionate about their remake. It’s astounding; the game looks great in a modern resolution. I found myself forgetting that I was playing a fifteen year old game almost immediately. I was quickly sucked back into the game world, searching for artifacts to research. I am very happy that the open source game will run on my PC. I know that I will be sinking many hours into this game again.
Dustin LaRoe is pretty awful at games. If you want proof of how bad he is, watch him stream on Twitch as Guy105. His Gamertag and Steam ID are Guy 105.